cover image The Night of the Goat Children

The Night of the Goat Children

J. Patrick Lewis. Dial Books, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-1870-8

Girl power prevails in this expertly crafted story inspired by an event during the Thirty Years War (1618--1648). The small kingdom of Beda, with a population of goatherds and shepherds, is ruled by young, bold Princess Birgitta. When outlaws invade, the villagers and their animals retreat behind the high city walls, hoping to stave off the evil Ubo Skald and his vile crew. As the siege continues, Birgitta devises an ingenious and daring plan and, with the help of some plucky village children, she saves the day-and the kingdom. Lewis's (The Christmas of the Reddle Moon; A Hippopotamusn't) dramatic story has many of the hallmarks of a good fairy/folktale, from ogre-like bad guys to the protagonists' brilliant disguises, and his language is suggestive and concise. Natchev's (Forri the Baker) illustrations also create a folkloric atmosphere, combining acrylics and occasional bits of collage for a rich, textured effect. His scenes often demonstrate a depth that brings readers right into the action. The renderings of the princess's finery, the traditional peasant garb and a countryside saturated with thick foliage befits the fetchingly distinctive Black Forest setting. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)